GOP infighting rages: McConnell blasts Tea Party group for "utter nonsense"

The Senate minority leader says it's time for Republicans to "stand up" to Tea Party intimidation

Published December 2, 2013 3:30PM (EST)

                   (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Long the target of the Senate Conservatives Fund — a Tea Party-aligned super PAC that was instrumental in bringing about October's government shutdown — Sen. Mitch McConnell is finally, on-record, fighting back.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, the Senate minority leader said that in the months and weeks leading up to the shutdown, many Republicans "were basically afraid" of groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund. "It's time," he said, "for people to stand up to this sort of thing."

McConnell didn't spare his criticism of the Senate Conservatives Fund in particular, either.

"The Senate Conservatives Fund is giving conservatism a bad name. They’re participating in ruining the [Republican] brand,” McConnell said. “What they do is mislead their donors into believing the reason that we can’t get as good an outcome as we’d like to get is not because of a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, but because Republicans are insufficiently committed to the cause — which is utter nonsense."

McConnell, who is running for reelection in his home state of Kentucky — and who has repeatedly seen his hopes of becoming Senate majority leader dashed on the rocks of substandard GOP candidates — also weighed in on what the GOP will need if it wants to retake control of the Senate in 2014. Establishment Republicans, McConnell implies, will need to fight back harder against Tea Party-esque challengers.

“To have the kind of year we ought to have in 2014, we have to have electable candidates on November ballots in every state — people that don't scare the general electorate and can actually win, because winners make policy and losers go home,” McConnell said. “We can't just turn the other cheek and hope for the best. It didn't work in 2010 and 2012 so we're going to try something different in 2014.”

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Gop Civil War Kentucky Mitch Mcconnell Senate Conservatives Fund Washington Examiner